Your Children Are Not Programmable Robots!

It’s not often I come upon an article that just makes me want to tear out my hair. Actually, that’s not true. I come upon articles that make me want to tear out my hair all the time. But for some reason, this one felt different. In this article, the author, a Christian pastor, wrote about all the dreams he has for his toddler son, and about how he realized that, because the Bible says that if you are a Christian the world will hate you, he has to raise his son not to be loved or admired, but to be hated. And that is the title of the article: “Raising Kids the World Will Hate.”

Reading [these Bible verses], I realized that if God answers my prayer for my son to be a follower of Christ, people will hate him. People will absolutely, unquestionably be repulsed by my son.

If God graciously saves my Oscar, people will call him a bigot and a homophobe. Some will ridicule him as a male chauvinist as they scorn his “sexist” beliefs. He’ll be despised as closed-minded for saying that Jesus Christ is not only God but the only God. He will probably meet a girl who insults his manhood or considers him old fashioned for waiting until marriage to have sex. His peers will think him a prude. Bullies will call him a coward. His integrity will draw insults like “goody two shoes” (I don’t even know what that means).

Teachers will think that that my son ignores scientific facts about our origins, prompting his classmates to mark him an idiot. People will tell him he has been led astray by his parents down an ancient path of misguided morality masked as a relationship with God. Financial advisers will think he’s irresponsibly generous. When he takes a stand, there will be those who will not tolerate his intolerance. He will be judged as judgmental. He will have enemies, and I’ll be asking him to love them, and even for that he’ll look foolish.

Vyckie Garrison posted this article on her facebook wall, and some of the comments she got were really insightful. I’m going to reprint some of them here.

Well he seems to be operating under the impression that after child birth, what you wind up with is a programmable robot. He is about to be sorely disappointed.

This I think is why this article affected me so. The Christian homeschooling subculture in which I was raised treats children as programmable robots. You do XYZ, input ABC there, and there you go! A perfect ideological clone in every minutia! Except that it doesn’t work like that!

In his mind, his son is a clone of himself.

Yes, exactly! But the thing is, children aren’t clones. Children are individuals with their own personalities and minds, their own talents and desires. Parents who view their kids as clones of themselves are bound to be disappointed—and to hurt their children in the process. The piece of advice that helped me out of this whole mindset, as a young mother, was this: “Libby, you have to remember, children are wild cards.”

He totally didn’t understand what my Grandad told me my Dad didn’t understand—”children don’t come into this world to you, they come into it through you.” He’s in for a rude awakening if he thinks his kid will agree with him even on the basic commonalities he assumed, like favorite sports teams. They’re their own people from a very young age and I feel sorry for that little boy who’s Dad doesn’t have a clue about what that means.

Once again, yes! Only in preschool, Sally is very much her own little person, and Bobby is starting to be his own person as well. And it is indeed this little boy that I feel sorry for here. If he grows up to disagree with his father even in small ways—and the odds are he will—he will feel the keen sting of his father’s unmet expectations.

The persecuted Christian meme is strong with this one.

I really have to say, I’ve never read the Christian persecution complex written from quite this angle. It’s like, persecution by proxy.

A nice piece of manipulative writing; notice he shifted the focus to a child and away from his adult self; used the emotions of pity and the emotional desire to protect a child to justify his intolerance for people who do not think the way he does.

And, well, that is the whole point of the persecution by proxy bit. The author’s focus on how people will hate his little bitty boy allows him to get him an emotional appeal that simply saying “People don’t like me because I tell gays and lesbians that they are going to be tortured for eternity for hell unless they repent” or “I don’t think schools should be trying to stop people from bullying gay kids” would fail to create.

The Slacktivist has been writing a lot about the Christian persecution complex lately. His main point is that conservative Christians engage in the fantasy that they are a beleaguered and persecuted minority in order to enjoy the the righteous remnant buzz they feel as a result, and to distract themselves from, well, this:

One point seems to be escaping this guy. If the values you’re teaching your child will cause others to hate him and be repulsed by him, the rest of the world isn’t the problem. The problem is the fact that you’re instilling repulsive values in your child.

In the end, I see two points to be made here.

First, children are not programmable robots. It’s only natural for people to have hopes and dreams for their children, but if you make those dreams too specific, you are bound to be disappointed—and you may well hurt your child in the process. I hope that my children will be compassionate individuals, that they will learn to stand confident on their own two feet, and that they will live fulfilling lives. And that’s it.

I understand that someone who is Christian is naturally going to want their child to also be Christian, but isn’t “I hope he will grow up to love and follow after Jesus” enough, without all of the minutia? But it’s not, of course, because in this author’s legalistic brand of Christianity, being a Christian doesn’t mean loving Jesus, it means voting Republican.

Second, this article simply highlights the depth of the Christian persecution complex. This author clearly sees himself—and his son—as persecuted and hated, and he wants you, the reader, to feel empathy for him. But what about the gay couple who are prevented from adopting a child because of the votes of individuals like him? What about the teens who become pregnant because people like him pushed for abstinence only sex education because of their religious opposition to premarital sex? What about the women who can’t access the healthcare they need because his state defunded Planned Parenthood?

The author of this article can’t see beyond his Christian persecution fantasy to the real world. He speaks of his son facing bullies and yet almost certainly opposes the efforts some schools have started talking to protect LGBTQ youth from bullying. The author can’t see that if his son does end up sharing his beliefs, people will dislike him because the views he holds will be harmful to those around him.

With that seriousness out of the way, I add this last comment only because it made me laugh:

Another hell raising, hard partying preacher’s kid. Those guys were a blast to hang out with in high school.

What would you add?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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